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Nerbonne’s transfer to UNH a win-win situation

The decision was a tough one for Lindsey Nerbonne. The Bow High product had become close with her Syracuse field hockey teammates after just one semester at the school, and even though she was a freshman, Nerbonne earned significant playing time for the Orange, who finished the regular season ranked No. 2 in the country.

But when the 2013 fall campaign was over, Nerbonne decided Syracuse was not the right athletic or academic fit and she transferred to the University of New Hampshire. She is in Durham now, taking classes and training with her new UNH field hockey teammates.

“It definitely took me a while to come to a decision,” Nerbonne said. “It had been in my head a little bit throughout the season, but I wanted to keep it out of my head until the end of the year because, obviously, I wanted to focus on the season. I finally came to my decision after Thanksgiving break and after I had gone home and talked to my family.

“The time at Syracuse was definitely a learning experience. I kind of figured out the styles that I liked and the styles that motivate me versus the styles that didn’t really motivate me.”

While Nerbonne said leaving Syracuse was “tough emotionally, because I did love the team,” coming to UNH was easy. Syracuse and New Hampshire were her final two choices when she was initially deciding on colleges, UNH has the major (outdoor education) she really wants, she likes being closer to home, and the Wildcats coaching staff is thrilled to have her.

“Lindsey is a very, very good player and we had recruited her pretty heavily coming out of high school,” UNH Coach Robin Balducci said. “Lindsey is just a competitor. She works so hard all the time, she’s very skillful and she plays at a really good tempo and speed with a lot of control. With the graduation of our quality seniors that we’re losing this year, it’s a blessing that we’ve had this transpire to help us replace them with a young player, but still a very skillful player who can step in and not skip a beat.”

The Wildcats will lose three of their top four scorers, including Hopkinton’s Hannah Richard, from last year’s team that finished 15-7 and ranked No. 16 in the country. So Nerbonne, a midfielder, will have her work cut out for her as she tries to fill those shoes. But she showed good signs in her first year at the collegiate level, starting six games for the Orange and finishing with a goal and two assists, one of the assists coming in Syracuse’s 3-1 win over UNH on Oct. 13.

But Balducci certainly believes Nerbonne can help the ’Cats regain the level they reached last year and qualify for the NCAA tournament for a third time since 2011. That’s why the coach found a way to provide Nerbonne with some scholarship assistance, which isn’t always easy when it comes to transfers.

“We were able to work with her and her family to hopefully make it an easy transition,” Balducci said. “And our thought the first time around recruiting Lindsey was that she would be an impact player for us immediately, and I really believe that she will be a huge asset for us right out of the gate.”

Balducci said because UNH had a successful season, she had received extra interest from potential transfers this year and heard from at least four student/athletes who were interested in coming to New Hampshire. But Nerbonne was a unique case because everyone in the program was familiar with her after the recruiting process out of high school, where Nerbonne was a three-time First Team All-State selection for the Falcons and the 2012 Division II Player of the Year.

“The team and the coaching staff at UNH definitely made it a really smooth transition,” Nerbonne said. “They’re all really welcoming.”

Transferring in the middle of the year can be difficult in terms of timing, paperwork and class schedules. But none of those proved a problem for Nerbonne, and transferring in the winter is a benefit when it comes to field hockey.

“It’s definitely better for individuals who can transfer in the mid-year, right from academics, to getting used to a new environment, to getting your feet on the ground with a new major,” Balducci said. “And we’re in our field hockey off season and going into our spring season, and we just love Lindsey and her parents. She’s a great kid, a team player, and she’ll just add so much to our program from her work ethic to her competitiveness. She’s got the whole package.”

After UNH’s spring season, Nerbonne will likely train with the USA Field Hockey program over the summer by going to camps and trying out for the junior team. Then it will be time for her first season as a Wildcat.

“As far as expectations for myself for next year, I’d like to be a starter and a good contributor to the team,” Nerbonne said. “But I’ll just have to work hard for that and see how it goes.”

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3341 or tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20.)

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